Overstatement of the Day – Gay Rights Edition

Andrew Sullivan:

The survival of my own marriage is entirely in the hands of the federal government. I have no right to stay in my own home with my own husband – just the government’s permission until they choose to revoke it. Gays do not have core constitutional rights in America. They have no right even to a secure home. And this president is in no hurry to do anything about it.

There’s no rational basis for allowing Britney Spears but not gays to get married.  And I agree that gays who got married in the handful of states that allow or allowed it but live in a state that does not are in a bizarre state of limbo.

But when was the last time that the federal government — or, for that matter, a state or local government in the United States — intervened to deny consenting adults the right to live together in the same domicile? Further, how are Andrew and his husband any less protected in that regard than Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman?

What “core rights” are being denied Andrew owing to his sexuality?  Certainly, not his freedom of expression. Or any of his other First Amendment rights.

Are there laws of which I’m unaware that make it harder for a gay man to buy a gun?  Can troops be quartered in gay homes?  Do police need a warrant to search them?  Do gays not get jury trials?  The right to an attorney?  A jury?  Are gays charged higher bails or punished more cruelly and unusually?  Can gays not vote?

Indeed, aside from the right to marry a person of the same sex — which is denied to heterosexuals as well, albeit with disparate impact — what rights, core or otherwise, are denied gays?

UPDATE: In the comments below, PD Shaw surmises that Sully is making an oblique reference to his current immigration status limbo which, Alex Knapp suggests, he would not be experiencing were he married to an American woman.  This, though, is an issue with bureaucratic discretion in enforcing an outdated and silly law, not gay rights per se.

Similarly, Steve Verdon notes that many municipalities limit the number of unrelated individuals permitted to share a domicile.  But that’s neither an anti-gay measure no even a “nanny state” issue but rather locals seeking to maintain the quality of their neighborhoods.  One doesn’t buy a single family home in the suburbs with the intent of living next door to 37 migrant workers sharing three bedrooms.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    I haven’t followed this closely, but I thought Sullivan or his partner had immigration issues and one of them was at the end of their current visa?

    Anybody know?

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Sounds more like he wants to leave his home, go down to the county courthouse and have them compel others to recognize his marriage. He states a fear of the government yet is demanding government action to codify his arrangement.

    Maybe some day he will get his wish but lying about the situation doesn’t move his cause forward.

  3. Furhead says:

    Indeed, aside from the right to marry a person of the same sex — which is denied to heterosexuals as well, albeit with disparate impact — what rights, core or otherwise, are denied gays?

    I think you’re forgetting serving in the military.

  4. Furhead says:

    Nevermind my last statement. I’m not sure why I thought that was a “right”.

  5. James Joyner says:

    I’m not sure why I thought that was a “right”.

    Well, there’s that. And, theoretically at least, gays can serve in the military so long as they don’t advertise their activities. But, yeah.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    Here is a sentence from Sullivan’s blog that suggests the issue:

    Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).

    Link

  7. James Joyner says:

    I’m fully in favor of Sully being able to extend his visa and stay here and, indeed, of overturning the HIV travel and immigration ban. Would an AIDS-infected Brit married to an American woman be allowed to stay?

  8. Alex Knapp says:

    Would an AIDS-infected Brit married to an American woman be allowed to stay?

    Under current immigration law, yes. Which is probably why he’s pissed.

  9. Mithras says:

    Gay and lesbian parents of children born of opposite-relationship are subject to significant discrimination in custody and visitation. In such cases, partners of divorced gay parents have been subject to orders to stay out of the home when the children are present. And as in the story Sullivan’s post discusses, some places still forbid or place serious roadblocks to gays and lesbians adopting or fostering children.

    Also, many states lack anti-discrimination protection for LGBT folks in employment, housing and lending. Straight people who are not part of a protected class are subject to irrational, private bias as well – an employer can refuse to hire the left-handed, for example – so perhaps some don’t consider this a denial of rights. Of course, straight people do not experience consistent bias based on sexual orientation, either. I imagine for many gay and lesbian people subject to this kind of thing, it feels like everyone is out to get them.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    From further down in my last link:

    As for the HIV ban, legislatively lifted by overwhelming numbers of Republicans and Democrats almost a year ago, this is the state of play from an Obama HHS spokesman:

    “The Department of Health and Human Services has submitted for OMB review a notice of proposed rule-making to implement this change.”

    Translation: we’re doing the bare minimum to make us look no worse than Bush, but we have no real interest in this and are letting the bureaucracy handle it, and we guarantee nothing,

    I can’t even begin to pretend to understand our immigration laws, but this seems like it should be a non-issue.

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    To answer your query James, 2006 (more in the post above yours).

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    One doesn’t buy a single family home in the suburbs with the intent of living next door to 37 migrant workers sharing three bedrooms.

    But in my example it isn’t 37 migrant workers or even 3, but from all appearances a nuclear family. A man, a woman, and three children. On that alone they’d match quite nicely to the man, woman and four kids who live across from me (in a house just like mine…how they all fit in there is beyond me).

    The problem can be sovled in the case I noted by changing the laws to include an age limit on the “children” make it something like 21 (for kids living at home during college).

  13. James Joyner says:

    Yeah, this seems like poor enforcement of the law. Generally speaking, these laws should allow a single unrelated person to live with a family. They’re designed to prevent, say, two couples and three single adults from moving in together. They’re especially popular in college towns or those which have large numbers of migrant workers.

  14. Michael says:

    Indeed, aside from the right to marry a person of the same sex — which is denied to heterosexuals as well, albeit with disparate impact — what rights, core or otherwise, are denied gays?

    So segregation is okay, as long as it’s balanced? We can have “whites only” drinking fountains, as long as we also have “colored only” drinking fountains? It’s okay to forbid a black person from marrying someone not of their skin tone, because we apply the same rule to whites?

    Suppose the law was changed such that only same-sex marriages were legal, would you feel equal?

  15. another matt says:

    Indeed, aside from the right to marry a person of the same sex — which is denied to heterosexuals as well, albeit with disparate impact — what rights, core or otherwise, are denied gays?

    This statement reminded me of a good one:

    All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

  16. PD Shaw says:

    michael, would you be offended if colleges or barracks maintained separate shower facilities for homosexuals, as they do for men and women?

  17. Michael says:

    michael, would you be offended if colleges or barracks maintained separate shower facilities for homosexuals, as they do for men and women?

    Ah, very good PD Shaw, very good. While I am very accepting of homosexuality, gender division is still deeply rooted in me, so you found exactly where to stick it to me.

    Yes, by my logic, gender separation is a form of discrimination, even when it comes to restrooms and showers. The rational side of me still believes this to be true. Like everyone, I find ways to justify the acceptance of discrimination I find acceptable.

    However, I don’t see women campaigning to be able to use men’s shower facilities, or vice versa. It seems a mutually agreed upon discrimination. Does discrimination exist, when everyone involved wants it that way?

  18. James Joyner says:

    Michael and another matt,

    Not sure I follow your logic. I concede that gays should be allowed to marry at the outset. But Sully goes overboard and claims gays have NO RIGHTS AT ALL. That’s nonsense.

  19. tom p says:

    They have no right even to a secure home.

    Let’s see James, he feels he is at risk of deportation, so he has no “right” to a “secure home”. Just exactly where do you quibble with his logic? Oh, I see, it is with his use of the term “right”… secure home is not in the constitution. Got it.

    Something which straight people get given to them as a “privelege” of marraige…

    Hmmmmmmm… I recall reading in several legal decissions that a “privelege” can be taken away at any time on the mere say so of the gov’t (or the “tyranny of the majority”) (“When they came for the Jews I was silent…”)

    Sounds more like he wants to leave his home, go down to the county courthouse and have them compel others to recognize his marriage.

    Gee Steve, and yet you have no problem with my being compelled to recognize your marraige (or you mine)?

    Andrew’s problem is this:

    This past spring I ended up in ICU for 6 days. Even after I told the hospital they could discuss my situation with my long time girlfriend, they refused. OK… “F” you all…. we got married. Now they have to (until the law changes anyway). I had that option. Andrew doesn’t.

    And may I remind all that Thomas Jefferson once said, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

  20. James Joyner says:

    Let’s see James, he feels he is at risk of deportation, so he has no “right” to a “secure home”. Just exactly where do you quibble with his logic? Oh, I see, it is with his use of the term “right”… secure home is not in the constitution. Got it.

    Something which straight people get given to them as a “privelege” of marraige…

    First, none of that was in his post.

    Second, he’s not at risk of deportation because he’s gay but rather because 1) he’s a British citizen and 2) he’s infected with a communicable disease about which we passed draconian laws out of ignorance years ago.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Much in the same way that Henry Louis Gates might have gotten upset with Officer Crowley because the professor knows what it is like to face racism/discrimination (not that I am saying or implying that Crowley is guilty of either), Sullivan, perhaps, is also “overreacting” because he too knows what it’s like to face a particular form of discrimination simply because he’s gay…it’s interesting that most of the voices who decry all this “overreacting” have themselves never had to face such forms of discrimination…

  22. Michael says:

    But Sully goes overboard and claims gays have NO RIGHTS AT ALL. That’s nonsense.

    Not at all, he claims that he doesn’t have a right to stay in his American home with his American husband, but had he been married to an American woman instead he would.

    Now, one could argue that he could just deny his homosexuality and marry an American woman and thus have equal rights as a heterosexual man, but I don’t think you want to argue that do you?

  23. tom p says:

    Let’s see James, he feels he is at risk of deportation, so he has no “right” to a “secure home”. Just exactly where do you quibble with his logic? Oh, I see, it is with his use of the term “right”… secure home is not in the constitution. Got it.

    Something which straight people get given to them as a “privelege” of marraige…

    First, none of that was in his post.

    So, your quibble is not with me, just the inaccurate way Andrew put it?

    This, though, is an issue with bureaucratic discretion in enforcing an outdated and silly law, not gay rights per se.

    So it’s the bureaucrats fault for enforcing laws we allowed to be passed?

    All of which completely avoids the point I was making: Marraige is a privelege, not a right. Do you feel more secure now in your ability to take part in the raising of your daughter? Or any of the other so-called “rights” you enjoy as a married man? Cause I tell you from personal experience, you do not have that “right” as a married man….

    Unless you can pay for it.

    PS: She is beautiful (but my (grand)baby girl beats her)(OK, OK, I am partial)

  24. TangoMan says:

    There’s no rational basis for allowing Britney Spears but not gays to get married.

    Similarly, there’s no rational basis for allowing gays to get married but denying a sterilized father the right to marry his adult daughter.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    There’s also no rational comparison to be made between a gay couple and a father and his adult daughter…nice try, though…

  26. TangoMan says:

    There’s also no rational comparison to be made between a gay couple and a father and his adult daughter…nice try, though…

    Make a rational case in support of your assertion.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Umm, you made the original comparison, so the onus is on you to prove that it is valid…

  28. TangoMan says:

    Umm, you made the original comparison, so the onus is on you to prove that it is valid.

    Since the Lawrence decision it is not the State’s business to get involved in the bedroom affairs of citizens. The State may still have an interest in the procreative affairs of citizens, thus working to forbid or punish incestuous breeding, but once morality, tradition, and community standards are removed what business does the state have in prohibiting marriages between parents and children if the issue of procreation is taken off the table.

    Secondly, a marriage need not be conjugal in order to be deemed valid, so we could have a non-sexual marriage between a father and his adult daughter, where perhaps she is already a single mother and he a widower, and all of the benefits that would go to a wife and not valid for an adult child and grandchildren. I’m pretty sure that my medical insurance wouldn’t cover a 32 year old daughter and her children, but if the father married the daughter then all of the benefits that accrue to a wife would now include the daughter and her children.

    As I noted, if people want to argue homosexual marriage on the basis of rationality, then they need to refute the same rational arguments when they’re applied to incestuous unions. We can go point by point on the issues, for instance, here’s a common “rational” argument, “How does someone else’s homosexual marriage affect your heterosexual marriage?” Well, how does someone else’s non-procreative incestuous marriage affect anyone else’s homosexual or heterosexual marriage? I don’t see any effect at all.

    So, you’re telling me, in a knee jerk reaction, that there is no rational comparison. Back it up. I’m interested in your rational reasons, not emotional reasons, not traditional reasons, not reasons based on customs or acceptance in the community, etc.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    Comparing homosexuality to incest is such an apples/oranges analogy…the two have nothing to do with each other…perhaps you disagree, but homosexuality is innate, so it isn’t simply a choice…incest, on the other hand, most definitely is…gay people can no more change themselves than can heterosexuals…as such, it is only fair that homosexuals have the same right to marry as heterosexuals…your little hypothetical father/daughter marriage is a sham, as the father is only marrying the daughter so that she and her children can gain his health benefits…what kind of psychological damage will be done to the children of the mother who has married their grandfather? If the father/daughter get married because they think they are in love with one another, that too involves some kind of psychological problem, as they already have a parent/child relationship…these psychological issues are not present with two homosexuals who want to get married…

  30. TangoMan says:

    homosexuality is innate, so it isn’t simply a choice…incest, on the other hand, most definitely is

    People can’t help who they fall in love with. Sound familiar?

    your little hypothetical father/daughter marriage is a sham, as the father is only marrying the daughter so that she and her children can gain his health benefits

    Who are you to judge the reasons that two people want to marry? People marry for lust, for love, for companionship, for family reasons, for business reasons, for drunken reasons, etc. You’re not offering a rational reason, you’re just waving your hands and creating a smoke screen.

    what kind of psychological damage will be done to the children of the mother who has married their grandfather?

    If there weren’t bigots like you around making the lives of this family, and their children, hell with your judgmental attitudes and efforts to demonize their choices, then there wouldn’t be any psychological damage. Recall the argument that homosexuals have lower self-esteem and other psychological issues because of the shame that they feel about their sexuality, a shame that is anchored in a non-accepting society, etc. If you accepted this family choice as being normal and acceptable, then the children wouldn’t feel ostracized. It’s all up to you to reject your bigotry and not torment these innocent children simply because they’re being raised in a non-traditional family.

    If the father/daughter get married because they think they are in love with one another, that too involves some kind of psychological problem, as they already have a parent/child relationship…these psychological issues are not present with two homosexuals who want to get married…

    Tell that to homosexuals who wanted to get married 100 years ago. The same stigma that you direct at this father-daughter marriage would have been directed at two dudes who wanted to marry each other 100 years ago. The same argument regarding psychological damage to the participants would also have been used a 100 years ago. Your bigotry towards this unique marriage choice is not really a rational reason to reject it. Your examples are anchored in societal disapproval.

  31. shawninPhx says:

    James: You say – “Not sure I follow your logic. I concede that gays should be allowed to marry at the outset. But Sully goes overboard and claims gays have NO RIGHTS AT ALL. That’s nonsense.”

    As a gay man, I disagree about what Andrew is saying (if you read his blog regularly you know he is talking about his immigration status), but I also agree that some in the gay rights movement claim that we have no rights at all.

    However, while we have rights we often have to sue to have those rights recognized rather than straight people whose rights are often accepted at face value. For instance, see the NYT article this past weekend about the Lesbian couple who took in foster children. See the TX gay bar that was invaded by the bureau of alcohol for — gasp — serving alcohol. There are many examples where gay rights have been upheld, but it’s often come at the cost of numerous court cases, expensive litigation and reluctant politicians.

    What Andrew is trying to point out is that if he were a straight, HIV positive male who was married to a straight female he would not have to spend his time and money worrying about these issues because they would be a non-issue.

  32. Michael says:

    People can’t help who they fall in love with. Sound familiar?

    On the one hand you’re excluding roughly half the population from the available marriage pool, on the other hand you’re excluding only a small handful.

  33. TangoMan says:

    On the one hand you’re excluding roughly half the population from the available marriage pool, on the other hand you’re excluding only a small handful.

    This statement makes no sense whatsoever. Giving heterosexuals the right to engage in homosexual marriage, thus expanding their pool of partners, is as empty a gesture as giving parents the right to marry their offspring, in that in both cases the expansion of potential partners is an expansion without substance.

  34. Michael says:

    Giving heterosexuals the right to engage in homosexual marriage, thus expanding their pool of partners, is as empty a gesture as giving parents the right to marry their offspring, in that in both cases the expansion of potential partners is an expansion without substance.

    Giving whites the right to drink out of “colored only” drinking fountains may have been similarly without substance. But for the black population, the right to drink out of “whites only” drinking fountains was significant.

    Yes, allowing homosexual marriage won’t do much for heterosexuals, but it will be a significant expansion of liberty for homosexuals.

  35. TangoMan says:

    Yes, allowing homosexual marriage won’t do much for heterosexuals, but it will be a significant expansion of liberty for homosexuals.

    1.) That’s immaterial to the argument that I’m making. 2.) Your argument also applies, rationally, to incestuous couples.